Nearly two decades ago, a group of Kentlands residents rode their bicycles around the community for fun and exercise. In 2001, those men—Clark Wagner, David Baseheart, Dan Borten, Chris O’Brien and Walter Ellenberger plus Ellenberger’s father—opted to add a bit more challenge, distance and varied scenery to their rides.
They chose to journey along a popular path for cyclists that is nearly car-free. Its first 150 miles, known as the Great Allegheny Passage, follow an old railroad track from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland. Modifying it to suit their hometown, they created Ride Allegheny, an annual 310-mile, four-day endurance event from Pittsburgh to Gaithersburg for riders of all skill levels.
The first ride, said Ellenberger who lived in Kentlands for about 16 years, was originally scheduled for the second week of September. With the occurrence of the 9-11 attacks, the ride was postponed a week—and like much of life, it took on more gravitas.
Four years later, when the men learned about Operation Second Chance (OSC)—a nonprofit organization started in September 2004 by Clarksburg resident Cindy McGrew to offer support and assistance to severely injured members of the military—they took the opportunity to make Ride Allegheny more consequential. Group members, Ellenberger said, had access to big corporations and thus, they would make their ride a fundraiser for OSC.
“It was such a compelling thing that Cindy was doing almost all by herself,” Ellenberger recalled. “We told her that if she would make OSC a 501(c)(3), we would be happy to raise funds to help fill in the gaps the government doesn’t cover.”
The most recent ride—a tribute to wounded and injured combat veterans—took place Oct. 3 to 6. Since 2006, Ride Allegheny has raised nearly $4 million, “this year alone, $575,000,” Ellenberger said. From those initial six, participation has grown to some 130 men and women. Ellenberger has taken part in 18 of the 19 Ride Allegheny rides, but this one, he said was “my last, my victory lap.” He said he is “retiring” from the ride to focus on the “kinder and gentler kayaking and paddle-boarding event,” Return to Goat Island, that started seven years ago in the Delaware beach community he and his wife moved to about 10 years ago.
Return to Goat Island, consisting of several races, raises funds—to date, about $300,000—for the local community of more than 50 wounded veterans that Operation Second Chance Delmar supports.
Why Goat Island? It’s simple, Ellenberger said, explaining that the name references the event’s location, a two-acre island inhabited by goats in the Pocomoke River near Snow Hill, Maryland.
“I want to re-create that same level of community fundraising here,” Ellenberger said.